Techno Tuesday is by Andy Rementer.
A post by business writer Tom Davenport at a Harvard Business Review blog explains it all for us:
I gave a presentation this week on decision-making, and someone in the audience asked me if I thought information overload was an impediment to effective decision-making. "Information overload...yes, I remember that concept. But no one cares about it anymore," I replied. In fact, nobody ever did.
He offers a few shaky reasons for why information overload is not a problem, then concludes:
So the next time you hear someone talking or read someone writing about information overload, save your own attention and tune that person out. Nobody's ever going to do anything about this so-called problem, so don't overload your own brain by wrestling with the issue.
Wow. It's the kind of inane, superficial article I'd expect from somebody trying to write with one eye on their blackberry.
Speaking of Google, I just learned of Google's holiday card offer. If you can't be bothered to send a snail mail card to your pathetic relatives who are "stuck in the pre-digital age" then Google will do it for you (except that they've run out already). And, yes, that's just the way they describe it.In privacy news, Eric Schmidt apparently forgot his talking points and said this in an interview: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." (quoted at Gawker; here's a response from security expert Bruce Schneier.)
A classic book that is often cited in studies of the history and social impact of technology is Sigfried Giedion's 1948 Mechanization Takes Command. Lucky for us the always-excellent New York Review Books is bringing it back into print (March 2010). From the description:
Sigfried Giedion's extraordinary, encyclopedic book traces the various ways in which, for better and for worse, mechanization has assumed control of our lives, from modern systems of hygiene and waste management, to agricultural production, fashion, and beyond.
Giedion's book is not only clearly written but also eloquent and thoughtful in its investigation of mechanization's reach and appeal, and it offers fascinating insights into the intersection between mechanization and the imagination, as manifested in literature and the visual arts. With a wealth of unusual and intriguing illustrations taken from old sales catalogues, industrial manuals, magazines, and other sources, Giedion's book constitutes a remarkable and endlessly suggestive history of modernity itself, as comprehensive as it is provocative and eccentric.
Link: Mechanization Takes Command.
Update (June 5 2010): looks like it's been canceled.
- From the Reith Lectures given earlier this year by Michael Sandel, quoted at Biopolitical Times blog.
Sandel's book about the ethics of genetic engineering just came out in paperback: The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering.
There's a good, contrarian piece in the September Harper's by Mark Slouka called "Dehumanized: When math and science rule the school." It's certainly not the first plea for the continuing importance of the humanities in a society that no longer values them, but it's a well argued one, I'd say.
(It's print or subscription only, thus no link.)
Sorry for not blogging much lately. I blame Twitter, partly, for leaving me with less blogging energy. (Find me there as @karthur.)
For regular readers and blogger friends: I discovered that the blog was loading very slowly because of my blogroll, which still uses Bloglines, so I turned it off until I can replace it with another solution. So please don't be offended that it looks like I'm no longer linking to you.
On The Media had a good interview this weekend with John McIntyre, a former newspaper copy editor, and one of many who have lost their jobs recently due to budget cuts. He talks about the increase in errors and reader complaints at newspapers as a result of the layoffs.
One reason they're are among the first to go is that their work is less visible than that of, say, reporters. Another reason is that, on the Internet, readers just "don't expect things to be accurate or very well done and therefore they are used to tolerating a much higher level of shoddy work and a much greater volume of errors, and therefore you can sacrifice quality on the web and it doesn't mean that much." McIntyre points out that the work of copy editors is much more than just fixing typos, though, and has caught cases of plagiarism, falsification, and libel.
Link: Newspaper Leighoffs (On The Media)
A related article by the ombudsman at the Washington Post: Declining Editing Staff Leads to Rise in Errors.
John McIntyre's new blog: You Don't Say.
"That gentle, harmless drug that would make me permanently happier? I would refuse it. After all, I can't tell myself from my limits. It would be like dying for a great cause: nothing of me would be left to know what I'd done. And I am no hero."
I highly recommend Richardson for anyone who likes aphorisms and prose poems. The subject matter varies widely -- it just happened that a couple seemed relevant to this blog.
"Determinism. How romantic to think the mind a machine reliable enough to transform the same causes over and over again into the same effects. When even toasters fail!"
- James Richardson, from Vectors: Aphorisms & Ten-Second Essays
From the New York Times:
Impressed and alarmed by advances in artificial intelligence, a group of computer scientists is debating whether there should be limits on research that might lead to loss of human control over computer-based systems that carry a growing share of society’s workload, from waging war to chatting with customers on the phone.
Their concern is that further advances could create profound social disruptions and even have dangerous consequences.
As examples, the scientists pointed to a number of technologies as diverse as experimental medical systems that interact with patients to simulate empathy, and computer worms and viruses that defy extermination and could thus be said to have reached a “cockroach” stage of machine intelligence.
While the computer scientists agreed that we are a long way from Hal, the computer that took over the spaceship in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” they said there was legitimate concern that technological progress would transform the work force by destroying a widening range of jobs, as well as force humans to learn to live with machines that increasingly copy human behaviors.